Sat in his humble home recording studio, GNR legend Gilby Clarke tells the story of how he came to own his first Gibson Les Paul guitar. “It’s the guitar you see in all the GNR videos” says Gilby. He thinks it might have been fate “Sometimes guitars find you and this one found me”, but he also thought it might have been stolen. This black beauty is second only to Slash’s Gibson Gold Top, well, when it comes to Guns N Roses anyway.

and as soon as he said that my first thought was, it was hot
- Gilby

Whilst Gilby Clarke only enjoyed a brief stint playing guitar for the most dangerous band in the world, legendary LA rockers, Guns N Roses, during the Use Your Illusion era (91-94), he also shred some riffs on a solo project Slash put together in 1994 called Slash's Snakepit. After the demise of GNR, Slash’s Snakepit seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue the rock and roll debauchery.

Much like his buddy, Slash, Gilby could only afford copies of more reputable brands. Even Slash’s first guitar was a copy of a Gibson Explorer given to him by his grandmother before he worked his way up, to his now iconic, Gibson Les Paul Goldtop 1956, made famous by Slash in the Guns N Roses video for Sweet Child ‘O Mine.

Early on in Gilby Clarke’s career, he was somewhat of an unknown musician, although having played with several outfits in LA, GNR would be his big break, replacing Izzy Stradlin who parted ways with Guns due to Axl Rose’s behavior. Before this, he was also working in a gas station which most surely did not have a backstage dressing room or any groupies. “So the story of my first Gibson, of course, is a Les Paul (holding a black Les Paul to the camera) this is it. I still have my first Gibson Les Paul” explains Clarke. “This guitar is actually a late 70s deluxe, it’s definitely a deluxe. I got this guitar when I was working at a gas station”

You can certainly imagine, back in the 70s and 80s, when online shopping didn’t exist, nor the internet for that matter, selling goods such as guitars would either have you taking a walk to a pawn shop, or selling it to a local kid at the gas station.

“So I was working at a gas station in a booth and a guy drove up one day and he says “Hey! You’re a guitar player, aren’t you?... I got this guitar I wanna sell you if you’re interested” and as soon as he said that my first thought was, it was hot”

“He pulls it out of the case...not only is it a Gibson but it’s a Gibson Les Paul, a black Les Paul, just like Peter Framptons, I picked it up and I started playing it and the first thing I noticed was the neck just fit me perfect. It was a little bit heavy because it was a late 70s one but the neck was just perfect”

Gibson Les Pauls are well known for being a heavy guitar due to the fact the body is made from Mahogany, one of the densest woods in the United States, a wood that will sink in water. Les Paul claims the Mahogany body gives a Gibson Guitar an “enhanced warmth and resonance” that also provides “superb punch and sustain”. However, many guitar players opt for an Epiphone Les Paul that uses a lighter wood and usually offer a thinner neck in many cases.

“At that point early in my life, in my career, ya know I didn’t really ever have a guitar that felt that well.”

“He gave me a price and the price was ridiculously low so I knew that even if it was hot I wasn’t gonna lose too much on it but I had a friend that worked at the police department and I called him and he checked the numbers out and it was cool”

Funnily enough, Gilby Clarke released his first solo record in 1994 called, Pawnshop Guitars, which is where his own Les Paul could have come from, or even ended up.

Since GNR, Gilby has produced records for L.A. Guns, Bullets and Octane, The Bronx, and also played a part in producing The Spaghetti Incident. The Infamous “final” album released by Guns N Roses in 1993, comprised of covers.

Author Bio: AC Speed

Senior Editor

I started my career as a music journalist in 2013 and have been involved in the music industry as a touring musician, studio engineer and artist consultant since 2002, as well as previously being a signed artist. My passion for delivering high quality, informative music-related news is a daily driving force behind the content I create. Also a huge gaming nerd! Born in the United Kingdom and currently living in Sweden. Skål!


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